Ancon Medical Researchers Make Nanotechnology Breakthrough for Disease Screening Technology

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Ancon Medical Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging (NBT) Device Can Already Detect Many Disease Biomarkers

Cancer cells
Detecting individual molecules is extremely challenging, but doing so opens a whole world of medical screening possibilities

Researchers at Ancon Medical Inc. have made a breakthrough in nanoparticle technology that will enable broader and less invasive screening for cancer, tuberculosis and many other diseases with a simple breath screen. The Minnesota-based medical device maker will move ahead on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process and is targeting a fall 2016 launch of the innovative Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging device.

Ancon Medicals nanoparticle breakthrough comes as scientists continue to find ways to use nanotechnology in cancer treatment, as this week researchers at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute announced the development of a pancreatic cancer treatment that can reduce the need for chemotherapy, according to on March 24.

Though known for their microscopic size, NBT works by using nanoparticles to make certain molecules appear bigger and easier to detect. NBT technology can detect the presence of a wide array of diseases just by testing an individual’s breath for “biomarker” molecules that serve as a chemical fingerprint for the disease.

“Detecting individual molecules is extremely challenging, but doing so opens a whole world of medical screening possibilities” said Ancon Medical President Wesley Baker. “For more than a decade, researchers at Ancon Medical have been working with nanotechnology in order to make NBT technology the most sensitive breath screening disease detection technology available.”

Nanotechnology made the goal of single molecule discovery possible for researchers at Ancon Medical, who were working in aerosol science to find a method of breath screening for disease detection, Baker said.

At first, Ancon Medical researchers were focused on technology that allowed nanoparticles to be enlarged through means of nucleation and condensation so they could be detected with visual equipment such as photomultipliers. In the 1990s, Ancon Medical researchers were successful in their ability to detect a single molecule of sulfuric acid using this technology. However, this nucleation-condensation detection technology based on aerosol science was effective for only certain chemicals, giving the technology limited overall practical application.

“We needed to find a way to take what we had discovered in aerosol technology and apply it more broadly. Then, nanotechnology came along and gave us the breakthrough we needed,” Baker said.

In 2002, Ancon Medical researchers expanded on their discoveries by working on ways to enlarge a molecule to make it easily detectable. Advances in nanotechnology made it possible to “tag” molecules with nanoparticles that would increase the molecule’s size to that of the tagging nanoparticle. Thus, it became possible for Ancon Medical researchers to detect any molecule, regardless of its chemical nature.

This breakthrough eliminated the chemical limitations of existing molecular detection methods and paved the way for the creation of Ancon Medical’s NBT technology, which utilizes both aerosol science and nanotechnology to be able to detect individual molecules in an individual’s exhaled breath.

“If a nanoparticle can be detected, then any molecule that is tagged with that nanoparticle can also be detected,” Baker said. “Because NBT technology isn’t limited to by a molecule’s chemical nature, it can be used to detect any molecule or ion, giving it practically unlimited market potential.”

Already, the remarkable potential for NBT technology is being discovered. With more than 400 know biomarkers, medical providers can use an Ancon Medical NBT device to screen for lung cancer, tuberculosis and a host of other diseases. With additional research, the biomarkers for diseases like Ebola could also be discovered and detected with an NBT device that would be a powerful tool in the fight against one of the world’s most dangerous and infectious disease.

Ancon Medical’s NBT devices offers several advantages over other breath detection technology, Baker said. NBT is the only technology that can detect a biomarker down to a single molecule, making it more sensitive than any other technology. An NBT device is nearly the size of a suitcase, making it portable and an ideal option for point-of-care treatment facilities -- even those in remote locations. The NBT device can produce a result in 15 minutes or less and is easy to operate and requires only minimal training, which lets the device be used by operators with limited medical or technological experience. And at a projected price of near $30,000, the Ancon Medical NBT device is affordable for hospital, clinics and other care providers.

“With additional funding, NBT technology can be made even more compact, versatile and effective,” Baker said. “Though nanoparticles are diminutive, the potential for improved healthcare from better disease screening through NBT technology is huge.”

Ancon Medical is a member of LifeScience Alley, a biomedical trade association based in Minnesota.

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